|Southwest Asia News Digest
LaRouche Issues Caveat on Southwest Asia Analysis
In discussions with EIR editors this week, Lyndon LaRouche warned against making predictions about the future of Southwest Asia, given the crisis in Israel, with Ariel Sharon's illness, the insanity of the Dick Cheney regime in the United States, and the unknowns of the British government, particularly its insidious Foreign Office.
LaRouche emphasized that the region is in a highly dangerous crisis, with war and regime-change threats coming from the Cheney crowd against Syria and Iran (see InDepth). But, he said, many factors are unknown, particularly about the British. LaRouche drew attention to the visit to the region by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who visited Lebanon this week, in the context of an announced coup d'etat plot against Syria voiced by former Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam while in France. Straw said that he did not support a coup against Syria's President Assad, but at the same time, shunned Lebanon's President Lahoud, whom the Cheney-Bush Administration brands a Syrian puppet.
LaRouche pointed to the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement between France and Britain, carving up Southwest Asia, as an historic precedent. He also warned that the Muslim Brotherhood is a British asset, and should be understood as such, in its role as a destabilizing factor against the current governments of Arab and Muslim nations.
Beware of the British government, LaRouche warned, as they could be "the joker in the deck."
Israel's New Prime Minister Promises Continued Air Strikes on Gaza
Even before the Jan. 4 incapacitation of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was promising a continued offensive against the Palestinians.
In a Dec. 28 press conference, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on the international community to force Israel to cease its air strikes of the Gaza Strip, known by the ludicrous name of "Operation Blue Skies." Abbas said, "We condemn this. Israel left the Gaza Strip and has no right to return under any pretext such as the firing of rockets, which I also condemn strongly." He also warned the Palestinian militants to cease attacks, and not "to give pretexts to Israel."
Despite Abbas's call to stop the military escalation, Olmert told Army Radio that, "The operations will take as long as is needed to ensure that the fire against us will be curbed."
Meanwhile, the "Quartet" of Russia, the U.S., the UN, and the European Union threw gasoline on the fire, when it announced that any Palestinian group that fails to renounce violence against Israel should not be allowed to hold a cabinet position following the historic legislative elections on Jan. 25, 2006. This comes on top of noises made by the Sharon government that Palestinian voters in East Jerusalem may be prevented from voting in the upcoming elections, or may have their voting restricted.
These Israeli-Washington-Quartet provocations are collective punishment of the Palestinians, since the "Blue Skies" bombings and declaration of a "no go zone," affects 100,000 Palestinians living in Gaza. In addition, Abbas is involved in ceasefire negotiations with Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, and is politically damaged by these Israeli moves.
Barghouti Urges Palestinian Voters To Support Fatah
Marwan Barghouti, the young Palestinian leader serving five life sentences in an Israeli jail, called on Palestinians "to renew their confidence in Fatah and give it another chance" in parliamentary elections coming up on Jan. 25, according to the New York Times Dec. 31. In a statement to have been published in Palestinian press, Barghouti called on Palestinians to vote, saying the election is "an urgent national necessity" and "a new democratic intifada that will lead to the renewal of the Palestinian political system." He also promised to work with Hamas, saying, "Hamas is not an alternative to the Fatah movement, but a partner." He promised that the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza will soon be followed by similar pullbacks in the West Bank and Jerusalem. "I say with confidence that the moment of ending the occupation is very close," he wrote.
Iraq Reconstruction Funds Spent on Everything But
All but 20% of the $18.4 billion that Congress appropriated for Iraq reconstruction has been spent, and the Bush Administration has no plans to ask for more, signalling the coming end of U.S. involvement in rebuilding that country, if it can be called that. At least $2.5 billion that had originally been allocated to rebuilding collapsed Iraqi infrastructure, went, instead to building the country's new security forces, a system of medium and maximum security prisons and even the trial of Saddam Hussein, the Washington Post reported Jan. 2. A further 14-22% of the costs of projects that did go ahead went to security against insurgent attacks.
As for the promised infrastructure improvements, oil production is at 2 million barrels per day, as compared to 2.6 million before the U.S. invasion, and electricity is averaging 4,000 megawatts per day, as compared to 4,400 before the war (the U.S. promised 6,000). Instead of infrastructure, the U.S. has spent $437 million on border fortresses and guardsabout $100 million more than for roads, bridges, and public buildingsand $107 million for a secure communications system for the security forces, but only $99 million for education. Saddam's trial has so far cost $128 million. American officials claim that none of this is really bad news, because if the insurgency were to end in 2006, the oil and electricity distribution systems could easily be repaired.
The head of the Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq said that, according to a poll, only 30% of the Iraqi people even knew there was any reconstruction going on.
Sharon Accused of Taking $3 Million in Bribes
On the same day that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a massive, life-threatening stroke, Channel 10 television reported that the Israeli police have new leads implicating him in taking $3 million in bribes.
The case stems from the the "Cyril Kern" affair, in which over $4.5 million was transferred into the bank account of Sharon's son Gilad. $1.5 million was used to pay back campaign funds that were raised illegally. The police believe that the balance of $3 million was a bribe paid to Sharon by Austrian businessman Martin Schlaff and his brother James. Schlaff's lawyer is Dov Wiesglass, Sharon's own lawyer and top crony, who is also Sharon's contact man with the Bush White House and, in particular, Vice President Dick Cheney.
The new report on alleged bribe-taking by Sharon has caused a political outcry by opposition politicians.
Likud Member of Knesset (MK) Michael Eitan declared that Sharon "must face the public" to rebut suspicions against him or explain how he got the money. Yosef Lapid, chairman of the Shinui Party, said that if the police suspicions are solid, this would mean a sharp turnaround in the elections campaign, and called for Sharon to be barred from running in the elections. Meretz Party MK Chaim Oron called Sharon's Kadima party "a bottomless barrel of corruption."